Furniture Making Tutorials #4: Long Grain Miter with a Spline.....your cheatin 'heart.

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Blog entry by BigRedKnothead posted 12-03-2013 08:06 PM 13331 reads 9 times favorited 26 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 3: Mortise and Tenons- Mortising machine and Dado blade Method. Part 4 of Furniture Making Tutorials series Part 5: Installing False Drawer Fronts »

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of miter joints. They just aren’t that strong and they can be fussy. However they’re good design option….like on the corners of a blanket chest. To strengthen them, I like using a spline. A spline looks kinda cool and will help alignment during glueup.

Now some woodworkers might be able to get a two foot long spline to fit perfectly and look great on the exposed ends….but they’re better than me. So I cheat. Here’s how I do it.


I cut the 45 degee bevels on the tablesaw. Leaving the blade at 45, I set it up to make the groove for the spline. It took two passes to get the width I wanted.
You can use a scrap or test piece for these setups. Don’t use a short one. That’s dangerous. I just made the pieces extra long and test the cut on the first inch or so.


Next smooth up the saw marks on your beveled edge.

Now make some splines. I use…...wait for it…...1/4” plywood! If you think about it, a spline running long grain with the joint is wrong because the grain is weaker that way. So you could make a bunch of smaller cross grain splines like this:

Or you could just use a scrap of 1/4” plywood. The grain alternates. And it’s already uniform thickness. Notice the spline is a couple inches short of the end. We don’t want to see the ugly ply in the end.

Spline a little snug? You can plane the first layer of ply. I know, Rojo loco.

If you’ve got a snug spline, glue up should be pretty easy. It helps keep things aligned.

Cut the legs to the correct length. Don’t cut to where you hit the spline!

Now you should have something that looks like this. Even if it doesn’t line up perfect or whatever….no worries. Chisel it to a nice rectangle. One of the few times I use an 1/8” chisel.

When you have it good enough, cut ya a little hardwood spline. I know it’s not correct, but I think the end grain looks cool. I rip thin pieces like this on the bandsaw. It’s safer.
As with any square peg, dowel….whatever you want to drive in wood. Make it slightly over-sized. Use a block plane or sanding block to taper it. Add some glue The tip should barely go in, then it will expand as you drive it home(Stef). Just don’t get too carried away and split the darn thing.

Flush cut saw. ROS. Little oil. It should look like this.

Edit: Well that spline blends so well maybe I should have made it cross grain or an accent wood if I wanted to highlight it. Oh well. Maybe next time.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

26 comments so far

View terryR's profile


7732 posts in 3770 days

#1 posted 12-03-2013 08:22 PM

Thanks for the cheat, Red. It looks great to me, and much easier to glue up…

I’ll have to try that!

-- tr ...see one, do one, teach one...

View Douglas's profile


424 posts in 4022 days

#2 posted 12-03-2013 08:22 PM

And if I saw that at some furniture show or whatever, I might use my meager woodworking experience to show off to a friend and say, “nice piece, but you see that spline in there? The bozo did it wrong! The grain is running the wrong direction, and there’s no strength to it. Ha!”. And I’d be dead wrong. Nice one.

-- Douglas in Chicago -

View AnthonyReed's profile


10196 posts in 3902 days

#3 posted 12-03-2013 08:23 PM

Nice! Thank you BRK.

-- ~Tony

View BTimmons's profile


2303 posts in 3947 days

#4 posted 12-03-2013 08:23 PM

Pretty slick.

-- Brian Timmons -

View BigRedKnothead's profile


8594 posts in 3444 days

#5 posted 12-03-2013 08:24 PM

Ya Douglas, you can still make the spline you see cross grain with this method. I’ve done it. But I didn’t like how it looked.
Tough call. An accent wood may be in order….but not on this project.

-- "At the end of the day, try and make it beautiful....because the world is full of ugly." Konrad Sauer

View AnthonyReed's profile


10196 posts in 3902 days

#6 posted 12-03-2013 08:46 PM

Besides the cleverness, that is a damn nice miter joint Red.

-- ~Tony

View Hammerthumb's profile


3157 posts in 3437 days

#7 posted 12-03-2013 09:29 PM

Cool Red. Nice blog.

-- Paul, Duvall, WA

View TopamaxSurvivor's profile


24657 posts in 5138 days

#8 posted 12-03-2013 09:59 PM

Thanks for the post. I think I need to remember this ;-)

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

View Scomel Basses's profile

Scomel Basses

169 posts in 3459 days

#9 posted 12-03-2013 10:32 PM

Very nice!

View ShaneA's profile


7085 posts in 4060 days

#10 posted 12-03-2013 10:54 PM

Hmm…interesting take on this joint. I like the aesthetics of the end grain plug. Thanks

View 404 - Not Found's profile

404 - Not Found

2544 posts in 4431 days

#11 posted 12-03-2013 10:59 PM

Nice work Red, very neat.

View DIYaholic's profile


19921 posts in 4137 days

#12 posted 12-03-2013 11:21 PM

Pretty slick there!!!

If an employed technique has a twist, a different approach, or is just plain unique….
And it works….
Is it really cheating???

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View widdle's profile


2073 posts in 4461 days

#13 posted 12-04-2013 12:16 AM

that whole corners lookin tight..good work..

View CFrye's profile


11482 posts in 3301 days

#14 posted 12-04-2013 01:26 AM

AWE-some Red!

-- God bless, Candy

View a1Jim's profile


118321 posts in 5039 days

#15 posted 12-04-2013 01:29 AM

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